Sunday’s New York Times featured a wonderful interview with Bill Murray, a man who never ceases to astonish us for his very improvised ways. (He’s the guy who spontaneously said: Grab this day by the neck and kiss it.)

The first couple of pages of a 2010 GQ interview we stumbled on intimates that Murray is not all sweetness and light, but he is an acutely original and honest guy whose  thought a lot about how he wants to live, and what, exactly, the point is. (If you want to reach him, you leave a message on an 800 number; if he wants to speak to you he’ll call you back!)

Here’s are a few potent life lessons we clipped from the Times piece:

Q. There seems to be so much serendipity in your life. Are you actively cultivating these moments or just hoping that they come to you?

A. Well, you have to hope that they happen to you. That’s Pandora’s box, right? She opens up the box, and all the nightmares fly out. And slams the lid shut, like, “Oops,” and opens it one more time, and hope pops out of the box. That’s the only thing we really, surely have, is hope. You hope that you can be alive, that things will happen to you that you’ll actually witness, that you’ll participate in. Rather than life just rolling over you, and you wake up and it’s Thursday, and what happened to Monday? Whatever the best part of my life has been, has been as a result of that remembering.

Q. Are there days where you wake up and think: “Nothing good has come to me in a little while. I’d better prime the pump”?

A. Well, who hasn’t woken up thinking, “God, nothing good has come to me in a while,” right? When I feel like I’m stuck, I do something — not like I’m Mother Teresa or anything, but there’s someone that’s forgotten about in your life, all the time. Someone that could use an “Attaboy” or a “How you doin’ out there.” It’s that sort of scene, that remembering that we die alone. We’re born alone. We do need each other. It’s lonely to really effectively live your life, and anyone you can get help from or give help to, that’s part of your obligation.

Q. Did you ever think that the lessons you first learned on the stage of an improv comedy theater in Chicago would pay off later in life?

A. It pays off in your life when you’re in an elevator and people are uncomfortable. You can just say, “That’s a beautiful scarf.” It’s just thinking about making someone else feel comfortable. You don’t worry about yourself, because we’re vibrating together. If I can make yours just a little bit groovier, it’ll affect me. It comes back, somehow.

Read the whole interview here.

Photo via  

If you’ve found illumination, joy, or inspiration in this post, please consider supporting Improvised Life. It only takes a minute to make a secure donation that helps pay our many costs. A little goes a long way towards helping Improvised Life continue to live ad-free in the world.

Support Improvised Life ♥

8 replies on “bill murray’s life lessons

  1. Thank you Bill and Sally for this really cool and poignant start to my day – brilliant, alive, hysterical, profound, authentic…so much bubbling up here from this interview. I absolutely love, love, love…”Its lonely to really effectively live your life, and anyone you can get help from or give help to, that’s part of your obligation.” Its so lucid.

  2. He is the man!
    Human , inspiring ,
    he keeps his ego at bay.
    the real mckoy!

  3. Dig this WONDERFUL memory from Andrea Raisfeld:

    I have a special place in my heart for bill Murray. One day when I was a young woman living and working in nyc, I passed a movie trailer parked along the street. I couple see instead and there was bill Murray. He looked up, smiled, and blew a kiss to me. He did it with such sweetness that I felt it as if it were a real kiss. I will always love him for that spontaneous act of love and joy. Oh, and the fact that he’s a great actor and comic!

  4. Gosh, who doesn’t love Bill Murray? Me too–thanks for posting this!

  5. Dear Elizabeth, THANK YOU SO MUCH for this. I think it needs to become a post unto iself, soon. Really beautiful.

  6. What a great interview.
    My favorite Bill Murray story is this one and I’ve probably got some of the details wrong … but
    He’s in a diner/fastfood joint and a woman is holding a plate of fries (or chips as the rest of the world calls them).
    He walks up to her takes one and looks her straight in the eye as he eats it then says “No-one will ever believe you when you tell this story”
    One of lifes true gentlemen.

  7. Bill-nice to see that you are the same funny and warm hearted guy that we all loved at St. Joe’s Elementary in Wilmette, IL.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *